Wheelchair user files suit after being kicked out of wine-tasting event at Tokyo department store

AFP-JIJI

A wheelchair user who was stopped from drinking alcohol at a wine-tasting event over “safety” concerns is seeking compensation in a Tokyo court.

The man in his 50s is demanding ¥1.7 million in damages from both the organizers of the event and Seibu & Sogo Co., operators of the Seibu Department Store in Tokyo where the wine-tasting was held in August, it was reported Thursday.

During the trial’s first day Wednesday, the manual wheelchair user, whose name was withheld, told the Tokyo District Court that he was asked to stop drinking after two glasses of wine.

Staff gave him a written statement which said: “To customers coming to the store with manual and electric wheelchairs, please refrain from tasting.”

He told organizers that he was not heavily drunk and the instruction was unreasonable, but he was ousted from the venue.

His complaint noted that the act was “unjust discrimination” against him and violated the nation’s disability discrimination law.

“Accidents and trouble inside the store are not always caused by wheelchair users,” his lawyer told the court, saying the defendant treated wheelchair users as “a nuisance.”

But a lawyer for the department store operator told the court that the instruction was “necessary to secure safety.”

The legal team added that there were minor accidents between an electric wheelchair user and customers when the store held a similar wine-tasting event two years ago.

Both manual and electric wheelchairs are mostly categorized as “pedestrians” under law, while police strictly instruct electric wheelchair users not to use them after they have been drinking.